Category: camping

Springing into fall

As we are moving into winter, I am finally finding time to wrap up my stories from the fall.  I suppose I have already told most of them (I did leave out the apple picking excursion that Michael and I went on, but really the best story from that is the delicious apple butter and caramel apple muffins that resulted from it :]).  The noteworthy fall tale that hasn’t yet been told , of course, is Thanksgiving.  I’ve always gone home to Albany for Thanksgiving…so it was definitely a new experience to have my family come up to me this year.  We spent Thursday with Michael and his family, then went to the other end of town and spent Friday with Chris and Julia and her family.  And then, I got my family all to myself on Saturday.  It was a wonderful weekend….I’m so blessed to have such incredible people in my life.

It’s rather amazing how different the three days were, however…the Fenners, the Meeks, and the Purcells are three very different families, lol.  Our afternoon with the Meeks was mostly spent playing games – after eating, of course.  It was a big potluck dinner – everyone was responsible for a different portion of the Thanksgiving meal.  That meant that we ended with a much larger variety and quantity of food than we would have otherwise had – not that I’m complaining, mind you.  My coconut pie and my mom’s chocolate pecan pie were big hits :).  But anyway, as I was saying….all of the Meeks love games – as do most of the people in my family – so we were all perfectly content to play word games and strategy games and party games and….well, you get the idea.

Chris and Julia and the Purcells, however, are not game people, so that did not even factor into the equation on Friday.  Mom and dad had bought Chris a turkey fryer for Christmas last year, and he’s been putting it to good use since then.  He fried 3 turkeys for us for Thanksgiving – one for the Purcells, one for my parents, and one for us all to eat.  We were all somewhat mesmerized by the bubbling oil and sizzling turkey skin from the fryer.  After dinner, Julia’s mom took out a box full of questions.  Some were silly, some were serious, some were long conversation starters and some elicited very quick responses.  Cindy passed the box around the table and we all pulled out 2 slips of paper.  We then took turns answering the questions that we had drawn.  It was a great way to foster conversation and learn more about the people around me.  I heard stories from my parents that I had never heard before, and was surprised by the depth and insight that some of my younger siblings showed in answering their questions

My day spent with just my family was marked by little in the way of specific activity except for just enjoying each other’s company.  Of course that could have more to do with them being tired than us actually not wanting to do anything per se :).  We did go shopping with Julia at IKEA for a little bit, which was fun.  And then in the evening dad took us all to a movie together, a rare treat with our busy schedules and the rising cost of movie admissions.  But mostly we just enjoyed each other, and it was so lovely.  I am trying to develop my gift of hospitality, so getting to practice on my beloved family just made it all that much better.  I bought a bed the week before Christmas to put in the spare room for my parents (and other guests) when they came, and put up a Christmas tree just a few days before Thanksgiving, so it was a very cozy, homey environment by the time my parents and little siblings showed up.  I am blessed and grateful that I am able to offer such a comfortable, welcoming place to people to come to my home.

I’m going somewhat out of order here, but I did also want to mention the fall camping trip that I went on a few weeks ago with some friends from house church.  The idea was to “camp” in my parents’ unfinished cabin in the northeast Georgia mountains – we were going to head up there after work on Friday, have a campfire dinner, and then bundle up for the evening and go on a hike the next day.  But, as I’m sure you all know, life doesn’t always go according to the plan.  We all left later on Friday night than we had wanted to…and then hit lots of Friday afternoon traffic…so by the time we got up to the cabin it was nearly 8:00 pm.  With lots to do – we still had to start a fire, get dinner started, warm the house up, yada yada yada – I was in a hurry to get to the cabin.  So we finally get there, and….my key didn’t work.  It was even worse because there is no cell phone service at the cabin.

So I drove away a few miles until I could make a call, and called the only people I knew to call – my great aunt and uncle, who live about 15 minutes from the cabin.  After explaining the situation, they very simply offered all of us to come stay with them for the evening.  They let me and 5 of my friends whom they had never met before come stay with them at a moments’ notice…I was floored by their generosity.  When one of my friends thanked them for letting us come over, Uncle Bill very simply said, “well of course.  Lauren’s family.”  Their simple and enduring love for me nearly brought me to tears.  Although I don’t get to see them very often, it’s amazing knowing that they are always there for me if I need them.  And it ended up (in my opinion, at least) working out much better than if we had stayed at the cabin.  I got to see Aunt Rose and Uncle Bill some in the evening, and much more the next day – Michael and Amy and I stayed and had lunch with them while everyone else headed back to Atlanta.  And I still got to go on a hike, and didn’t even have to freeze on Friday night!  Now if only I can learn to actually not freak out when things don’t go according to plan…

4th of July camping trip and visit to Berry

During my time in Atlanta, I have been blessed with some truly extraordinary friends.  Not only do we love each other dearly and care about what goes on in our lives, but we also like each other.  We spend lots of time together, just because we want to.  One of my favorite examples of this was this past 4th of July.  A big group of my small group members went camping in Cloudland Canyon for the holiday weekend.  Despite having a very inauspicious beginning – one of the cars broke down in the middle of nowhere, and a few people had to go back and get those passengers, and then drive up to Chattanooga at the end of the weekend to get a rental car to get everyone home again – it was an amazing weekend.  In fact, the car breaking down almost made it better – it was really awesome seeing how positive and upbeat everyone stayed…they just pulled together and did what needed to be done, and had a great time doing it!  Plus it gave us a great story later on… 🙂

Aside from our little vehicular misadventure, we did plenty of other more traditional activities – went hiking, made bonfires, found a fun little playground to reconnect with our inner children, played card games, and found a lovely little waterfall to hang out around for a bit (Elizabeth and Caleb even went swimming in it!  Crazy kids…).  It was such a nice, relaxing weekend; I was so grateful to be able to spend it with people that I cared about so much.

(continue reading past the pictures below for the rest of the story)

As a bonus, we even got to stop by Berry on our way home!  Caleb and several others in the group had always wanted to go to Berry but never had, and of course I will NEVER argue about a trip to Berry; since it only meant about an extra 30 minutes of drive time, we decided to make the detour and go visit the place where I have some of the best memories of my entire life.

I got to play tour guide for the people in my car – I was a very enthusiastic guide.  I felt a little bad for the guys in the other car, who were missing all of the stories.  Of course, my story-telling may have gotten a little too enthusiastic at times…perhaps I should have been feeling bad for the people in MY car, lol…

But anyway, we had enough time to visit all of my old haunts – my old dorms and the lovely mountain campus and the famous Frost chapel and the beautiful Old Mill and the original one-room schoolhouse that Martha Berry founded before Berry was even a glimmer in the future. We tried to go to the Martha Berry museum, since most of the people in the group had never been there before, but it was already closed :(.  But it was still a wonderful visit.  I always love going back to Berry, but going back with people who’ve never seen that part of my life before, but are eager to learn about it and hear my stories, just made the visit all the more sweeter.  It really was one of the best weekends of my year.  And to think I almost stayed home and missed it!  Many thanks go out to my friend (and now roommate) Amy for convincing me to go!

Finals Week Highlights

I’m done!  I have officially finished my first year of graduate school!  Let me tell you what, it was quite a ride!  But the last week or so or classes I didn’t really actually have much schoolwork to do – I’m happy to report that the mind-numbing amount of work I did before finals week finally paid off, and my finals week was quite relaxing.  So I made up for some lost time, doing all of the things that I had neglected to do throughout the course of the semester.  Here are some of the highlights:
I went camping with my dad the weekend before finals.  I think the two of us had two very different experiences.  For me, I had a blast – I really enjoy camping, but hadn’t been in years, so it was a nice change, and great spending some quality time with my dad.  But my dad’s perspective, however, was that there was a hole in the tent over his head.  Poor man.  It poured most of the night, and add to that the fact that he didn’t have a water-repellant sleeping bag, but rather one that absorbed all of that excess moisture in the air, and he had quite a rough night that evening.  We ended up waking up really early in the morning and just heading back – at least then he was dry, even if he wasn’t well-rested!
I also got to see a musical performance of The Mask of Zorro with my friend Amy.  To psych myself up for it, I watched the movie the night before, which was excellent.  But the musical just blew me away.  It had beautiful singing, and energetic dancing, and pithy humor, and sonorous Spanish, incredible costumes…it really had everything.  I was left breathless on more than one occasion.  I’m definitely getting the Georgia Tech student art pass next year!
My friends Jonathan and Jessica invited me to see a double feature at one of the last remaining drive-in movie theaters in the country.  We brought food and chairs and got there early to just talk and hang out – Jess and I did our nails, lol.  I had never been to a drive-in theater before, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even despite the threat of rain that drove us into our cars for a while.  But even then, they play the sound through a radio station, so we could still enjoy the movie just fine :).
Of course I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t do some dancing, too.  I caught the last bit of the Thursday night dance after Zorro ended, and that was a lot of fun.  I almost didn’t go, but in the end I’m very glad that I did.  But even better than the dance on Thursday, was the workshop on Saturday.  Now, I had been to dance workshops before – they’re always good and I learn a lot, but there’s nothing really that unique about them.  This one, however, was different.  It was called “The Art of the Steal,” and was specifically tailored to teach people how to steal someone else’s partner in the middle of a dance without disrupting the flow of the music or the dancers.  So there was a lot of group partnering instead of pairs, and weird rotations, and all in all everyone just had a grand time.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and learned a heck of a lot.  
My last night in Atlanta, I went out to dinner with Jonathan and Jessica and some friends of theirs to celebrate his graduation from Tech.  The place we went to was called Buca di Beppo, and their trademark thing is that they take all of their guests through the kitchen before seating them – way cool!! Anyway, I got back to Albany just in time on Sunday to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday celebration with the family.  I was glad I made it back for that.  And now I’m in Albany for the summer!  For now, at least.  Who knows where I’ll be in a couple of weeks! 🙂